SOMETHING’S gotta give. The only way, surely, is up for second-from-bottom Newcastle United.
But can the same be said for Alan Pardew?
The man who holds the club’s – and Pardew’s – destiny in his hands was at the Britannia Stadium last night.
And he was giving nothing away, unlike last week when he bizarrely spoke to a reporter outside a London pub.
Owner Mike Ashley – who had joked that Pardew was “finished” if Newcastle lost in the Potteries – saw Pardew’s side narrowly, but in many ways convincingly, beaten by Stoke City thanks to a first-half goal from Peter Crouch.
New Order’s Blue Monday was played over the stadium’s PA system before the game.
And Ashley looked like he was feeling blue as he slowly got up from his directors’ box, turned and headed for the exit door.
We don’t know what he said to managing director Lee Charnley.
It was time to start the helicopter – but was it time, in his view, for a change of manager?
There was a crack of thunder above the ground shortly after Crouch struck, and Pardew faces another stormy week on Tyneside.
Pardew’s side had been on the back foot for much of the game, only rallying late in the match.
It’s a little over five months since Ben Arfa made his fateful last appearance for Newcastle at the Britannia Stadium.
Ben Arfa suffered an injury minutes after making it on to the field, and his United career was as dead as the dead leg which he returned to Tyneside nursing after a frank exchange of views in the dressing room.
That afternoon in April also saw the first widespread anti-Pardew chants from dissenting fans.
And Pardew’s name was being sung by BOTH sets of fans a quarter of an hour into the game.
After an uncertain start to the game, Stoke took control.
Victor Moses got the better of right-back Daryl Janmaat and crossed for Crouch, who beat captain Fabricio Coloccini to head past Tim Krul.
Stoke’s fans chanted “you’re getting sacked in the morning” – and many in the away end joined in.
The goal was also met by thunder as storm clouds moved above the Britannia Stadium – and Pardew.
Stoke had a strong penalty appeal turned down by referee Craig Pawson – Yoan Gouffran clattered into Moses in the box – during a fraught period for United, who struggled to impose themselves on their hosts.
Mark Hughes’s side, by contrast, looked a danger every time they crossed the halfway line, and often outnumbered their visitors on the attack with players stranded upfield.
A 20-yard shot from defender Paul Dummett took a deflection on its way over the Stoke goal as the break neared.
And goalkeeper Asmir Begovic didn’t have much to do until Janmaat, given a torrid time by Moses, struck a low shot from 25 yards which he just managed to turn round his right-hand post.
Paul Dummett blocked a shot from substitute Mark Arnautovic before the half-time whistle after a rare spell of pressure from United.
Pardew brought striker Papiss Demba Cisse on for the second half, but he opted not to field him alongside Emmanuel Riviere, who had gamely been fighting a lone battle up front. Riviere instead made way for fit-again Cisse.
Arnautovic struck the left-hand post with a chance early in the half as Stoke relentlessly pressed for a second goal.
Krul kept United in the game after a mix-up between Janmaat and Mike Williamson let in Moses, whose shot was stopped by the goalkeeper, who clashed with Crouch later in the half over a penalty claim from the striker.
Pardew then threw on Gabriel Obertan and Sammy Ameobi.
And a cross from Obertan, on for Gouffran, almost led to an equaliser, with Jack Colback’s well-worked shot striking the crossbar with Begovic beaten.
Newcastle rallied, but it felt like it was too little, too late.
Pardew’s players, individually and collectively, had shown fight on a trying night, but they had played precious little football.
And, as Pardew conceded after the game, this just can’t go on.